Monday, March 24, 2014

Winter/Spring Travel Packing for 1 week

As mentioned before, we had a car trip to visit family and friends who live 700 km away. That's about a 6.5 hour drive with 2 kids under 5 and all the winter gears for a family of 4. We only have a small family car so packing efficiently is a mandatory skill. My stuff (clothing, toiletries, accessories, magazines) only took up half of a small carry-on suit case. It was basically 3 key outfits that can be mixed and matched for various functions: outdoor ice/snow fun, family dinners and perhaps something more somber. And here are the things I brought with me (I guess I should have ironed the clothes before taking pictures):

1. Outerwear
  • a black 11-year-old down jacket that's very warm and still going strong. The colour and style makes it very versatile for outdoor play or dinners or funerals.
  • a red self-stitched wool hat based on Simplicity 5799. It's made with red wool coating and lined with cotton broadcloth. Very warm and I love the colour.

2. Middle layers
3. Under layers
  • 3 long sleeves cotton tshirts - black green and silver
  • 2 silk camisoles to be worn under the tshirts for warm. Can also be worn with the black cardi above for dressy dinners.

4. Scarves
  • a thrifted red/black polyester scarf
  • a beige alpaca scarf
  • a self-stitched wool paisley scarf (I just bought the wool fabric and bounded the edges)

5. Pants
  • a pair of self-stitched Polartec Windbloc pants based on McCall's 5273. It's warm and water repellant. Good for outdoor snow/ice activities. The dark colour also makes it look more dressy for dinners.
  • a pair of self-stitched jeggings also based on McCall's 7273.

6. Pajamas/Loungewear
  • a pair of black leggings
  • a hand-me-down men's PJ top

The weather during the trip was between -15C to 5C and on the last day there was a snow storm. This wardrobe took care of the varying weather.  I wore the bulkiest stuff during the trip: the silver sweatshirt, the Polartec pants with a camisole and long sleeves tshirt, and of course the down jacket and hat. The rest fit snugly inside half of a small carry-on suitcase with my toiletries bag. I was able to wear different-looking outfits for the week. The only thing I had remember was to do a wash every other day. Luckily I was staying with friends and family and they have washing machines and tumble dryers.

So do you have a tried-and-true packing list that you use for different seasons?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Copycat Fashion: A Tribute to McQueen and Sherlock Dress

When I used to travel frequently by air for business, it was always difficult to pack business clothes when I had to visit clients' sites in the American South in the summer. The lined linen jackets always stuck to my skin and made me really uncomfortable. I would sweat profusely even on a walk from the air-conditioned car to the air-conditioned office. I didn't know this then but what I really needed was some professional looking short sleeve dresses that would eliminate the need for a separate jacket. And of course they have to pack well in my tiny carry-on suitcase.

.....which leads me to the creation of this garment. As with many, I'm a big fan of the BBC Sherlock series (a modern adaptation of the classic Sherlock Holmes stories). In season 2 episode 1, I was 'in love' when I saw Irene Adler in this dress:

This is actually an Alexander McQueen dress with faux jacket flaps in the front. The back is completely smooth. I thought it looked vintage, professional and feminine all at the same time. I had been looking through my pattern stash to see if there were any patterns I could adapt this look to. I tried drafting the extra pieces based on a few woven sheath dress patterns but with no luck. I couldn't figure out how to incorporate the lining pieces into it. Eventually I decided it would be easier to try to copy this dress in knit. I searched my fabric stash and found a small piece (less than 1 metre) of grey polyester moderate stretch knit that I had for at least 6 years. There was just enough to do this dress. And the polyester knit is travel friendly too!

I used my go-to moderate stretch knit pattern Butterick 6771 (again) as a base and then drafted the faux jacket front flap, the facings, modified the dress front neckline and shortened the sleeves. It was actually pretty quick to sew. It only took me a couple of nights to get it done. And here is my Tribute to McQueen and Irene Adler dress:
(I guess I should have ironed the dress front more.....oh well....)

I am happy with how this has turned out. When I was thinking and planning for it in my head, I was totally prepared for this to be an unwearable 'proof of concept'. The fact that I was able to use stash pattern, stash fabric and stash buttons for this was great for me. I think I can wear this not only for the office, but perhaps for a school function, or even a wedding, depending on how I'm going to accessorize this. Another travel friendly versatile dress and I'm busting my fabric/notions stash again! Yay!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Refashion: XL Silk blouse to Wearable blouse?

In the colder months, I always like to layer my sweaters with a silk blouse. The temperature-regulating properties of silk give it the ability to warm and cool the body at the same time. It feels great against the skin, and it is non-bulky to wear or to pack - making it quite travel friendly. I would layer a silk blouse on top of a silk camisole and then put the wool sweater on top. It gives me a smoother shape than if I was wearing a cotton t-shirt.

This is an XL ladies silk blouse I thrifted from my local Thrift Store last year. It looks a bit matronly to me but I thought it would make a great layering piece.

First, I chopped off the sleeves:

Then I used the PPCS (pinch-pin-cut-sew) method to remove the excess fabric on the sides. I still wanted it to be a bit loose fitting so I can tied it in the front. I then cut the sleeves to a shorter length, and gathered the cuff with elastics.

I tried to wear it as is but it still looks matronly to me.

I tried to tie it in the front:

And finally I wore it the way I had intended - layering it with a sweater:

So what do you think? Does it look matronly as is? Any suggestions on how I can make the blouse less matronly?

Friday, March 7, 2014

Refashion: Travel Friendly Silver Sweatshirt

I used to travel by air for work frequently. There was a particular year when I would be traveling by plane to clients' sites every 3-4 weeks for a 3-4 day stay. I know some business people would travel on the plane with their suit jackets on but that's not for me. I had experienced too many airplane delays, sitting at the boarding zone for hours, sitting inside a stationary boiling hot plane for hours, cancelled flights, etc. So I always made sure that I was wearing something comfortable for the travels. In the colder months, I would just wear a big comfy sweater or sweatshirt, which felt like having nice blanket on me and helped me to nap on the plane.

This XXL sweatshirt was part of the RTW purchase with the gift card I received for X'mas. It's big, soft, comfy and it has silver threads in it for a bit of glamour! And it only cost $3.97 so I bought 2 of them.

I decided to do a simple refashion to make it less overwhelming on me. I used the usual 'pinch-pin-cut-sew' (PPCS - LOL!) method. I removed the excess fabric from the sleeves and the body. It's still roomy for me but more wearable now.

And since JCrew had reinvented the sweatshirt look, there are so many ways to wear this sweatshirt:

This plain looking sweatshirt has a little unexpected feature: little openings at the cuff for the thumbs to warm my hands in cold weather!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Travel Friendly Versatile Little Black Dress (LBD)

In January, I was searching for ideas for the Most Versatile Little Black Dress for me. One of the criteria of a versatile dress is that it needs to travel well. So I turned to my favourite fabric ponte knit in my stash for this dress. It's based on my go-to Moderate Stretch Knit dress pattern - Butterick 6771. I used it to draft a Faux Wrap Little Black Dress which was very quick to sew:

It has a slightly A-line shape which suits my body. The wraps are sewn to the side seams down to about mid-thigh. So there is no chance that it would blow open in a gust of wind. I made it sleeveless to maximize its versatility.

There are just so many ways to wear this dress. Here are just some examples:

To the Office - with a black belt and Navy blazer:

To a Date/Dinner/Wedding - with a pink pashmina:

For layer in the Fall - Long sleeves shirt, leggings and boots:

Ponte knit is perfect for Travel Packing. It doesn't wrinkle, drapes perfectly, perfect for all seasons, except for the bitterly cold winter. And as a knit it means it's comfortable to wear and one can eat a good size meal in the dress. The faux wrap neckline provides a little more interest than a plain T-shirt dress. So I'm really happy with how this Versatile Little Black Dress has turned out!

Do you have a Travel Friendly Little Black Dress that you keep wearing?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

March is 'Travel Friendly' Month

This month's sewing/refashioning theme is Travel Friendly clothes/accessories. Our family travels by car frequently because we have close family/friends living about 700 km away. I'm used to packing the absolute essentials for myself from 4 days to 4 weeks. The kids' stuff takes a lot of space already and in the winter with all the extra gears and layerings, it's even worse. We have done car travel with the kids in every weather conditions imaginable (shower, pouring rain, gusty wind, snow, sleet, whiteout, freezing rain, etc). All our clothes needed to be travel friendly for all occasions - including outdoor sporting activities, and sadly including funerals which we unexpectedly had to attend a couple of years ago.

This month we will have to do the long car travel again. The packing is even more difficult when it's in-between seasons. I already have lots of self-made travel friendly clothes but I would like to add some variety to it. I will also be posting my Travel Packing for this trip later this month.

So have you sewn a Travel Wardrobe for different seasons? Are there any particular Travel Friendly garments that are musts for your trips?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Refashion: A Scarf into a Downton-inspired Dress

I thrifted this silk/rayon devore velvet (cut velvet) scarf last month for $3.99. I just love this type of velvet. It's wide enough so I thought it might make a nice tunic or dress for me. After watching a few episodes of the new season of Downton Abbey, I just wanted to make a 1920's dress!

With such a nice fluid fabric, I figured that I could just sew up the side seams, cut out a hole for the head and that would make a flowy tunic/dress. The fringes of the scarf would have been nice if they weren't all tangled together. I had to cut all the fringes off. I was going to do a narrow hem for the neckline but I'm just too lazy. In the end I just used the rolled hem function on my serger to finish the neckline.

 To style this dress, I already have a nice raspberry long slip in my closet (bought on clearance at Debenhams' 15 years ago for 7 quid!) which would go nicely with this tunic. And I also have self-made jet black semi-precious stone jewellery to adorn this dress. I made a black satin belt with remnant satin blanket edging and then added a thrifted brooch to the belt. So here is the Downton-inspired outfit:

 I showed the outfit to hubby and he said it didn't look too costume-like. So what do you think? Can I go out to dinner with this outfit or does it look like I'm going to a fancy dress party? Do you have any Television/Movie inspired outfits too?